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Bajor is in flames. The corridors of Terok Nor echo with the sounds of battle. It is the end of the Cardassian Occupation and the beginning of the greatest epic adventure in the saga of Deep Space 9
Six years later, with the Federation losing ground in its war against the Dominion, the galaxy's greatest smugglers, including the beautiful and enigmatic Vash, rendezvous on Deep Space 9. Their objective: a fabled lost Orb of the Prophets unlike any other, rumored to be the key to unlocking a second wormhole in Bajoran Space, a second Celestial Temple.
Almost immediately, mysterious events plague the station: Odo arrests Quark for murder; Jake and Nog lead Chief O'Brien to an eerie holosuite in a section of the station that's not on any schematic; and a Cardassian scientist whom even the Obsidian Order once feared makes an unexpected appearance. With all these events tied to a never-before-told story of the Cardassian withdrawal, Captain Benjamin Sisko faces the most dangerous challenge of his career: Unless he can uncover the secret of the lost Orb, what began with the fall of Terok Nor will end with the destruction of Deep Space 9...or worse.
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Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens are the authors of more than thirty books, including numerous New York Times bestselling Star Trek novels. Their newest novel of suspense, Freefall, is a follow-up to their Los Angeles Times bestseller, Icefire, and is set against the political intrigue and historical conspiracy surrounding the next race to the Moon.
In keeping with their interest in both the reality of space exploration and the science fiction that helps inspire it, in 2003 Judith and Garfield were invited to join a NASA Space Policy Workshop for the development of NASA's new goals as put forth in the agency's 2004 Vision for Space Exploration. Then, for the 2004 television season, the couple joined the writing staff of Star Trek: Enterprise as executive story editors. For more information, please visit www.reeves-stevens.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
On this day, like a beast with talons extended to claw through space itself, the Station stalked Bajor one final time.
Viewed from high above, from orbit, the dark, curved docking arms angled sharply downward, as if gouging the planet's surface to leave bloodred wounds of flame. And from each blazing gash of destruction, wave after wave of ships lifted from the conquerors' camps and garrisons, on fiery, untempered columns of full fusion exhaust.
As those ships exploded upward through the planet's smoke-filled atmosphere, the sonic booms of their passing were like the echo of the death-screams of the ravished world they left behind. The jewel-like sparkle of the departing ships' thrusters like the glittering tears of that world's lost gods.
On this day, on this world, sixty years of butchery and brutality had at last come to an end.
But on the dark station that was Terok Nor, with viewports that flashed with phaser bursts and shimmered with the fire of its own inner destruction, there was still far worse to come.
On this day, the Day of Withdrawal, the Cardassians were leaving. But they had not left yet...
Held within the cold and patient silence of space, the Promenade of Terok Nor itself was a tumultuous pocket universe of heat and noise and confusion.
The security gates that had bisected its circular path had by now collapsed, twisted by hammers and wirecutters and the frantically grasping hands of slaves set free. Glowing restraint conduits that once had bound the gates now cracked and sparked and sent strobing flashes into the dense blue haze that choked the air, still Cardassian-hot.
Hull plates resonated with the violent release of multiple, escaping shuttles and ships. A thrumming wall of sound sprang up as departing soldiers phasered equipment too heavy to steal.
Decks shook as rampaging looters forced internal doors and shattered windows. Among the empty shelves of the Chemist's shop, a Bajoran lay dying, Cardassian blood on his hands, Cardassian bootprints on his back, his collaboration with the enemy no guarantee of safety in the madness of this day.
Turbolifts whined and ladders rattled against their moorings. Officers shouted hoarse commands. Soldiers cursed their victims. In counterpoint, a calm recorded voice recited the orders of the day. "Attention, all biorganic materials must be disposed of according to regulations. Attention...."
But on this day, the only response to that directive was the desperate, high-pitched shriek of a Ferengi in fear for his life. And in fear for good reason.
Quark the barkeep kicked and fought and shrieked again, as the Cardassian soldiers, safe in their scarred, hard-edged armor, dragged him from his bar, soiling and tearing his snug multicolored jacket.
Quark opened his eyes just long enough to recognize the scowling officer, Datar, a glinn, who waited for him with a coil of ODN cable. In the same quick glimpse, he saw the antigrav lifter from a cargo bay bobbing in the air nearby; he heard the soldiers as they mockingly chanted the last words he would hear before he stood at the doors of the Divine Treasury to give a full accounting of his life --
"Dabo! Dabo! Dabo!"
Yet even as he faced his last minute of existence, Quark still couldn't help automatically tallying the damages each time he heard a crash from his establishment as the Cardassian forces laid waste to it.
A sudden blow slammed Quark to the Promenade deck, and a quick, savage kick from a heavy leather boot forestalled any thought of escape.
But even as he cried out in pain, Quark wondered if his brother and nephew had made it to a shuttle, and if the Cardassians had found his latinum floor vault. He gasped in shock as he felt Glinn Datar's rough hand claw at the sensitive lobes of his right ear, the violation forcing him to his feet. In the same terrible moment, Quark found himself wondering just why it was Cardassians always had such truly disgusting breath.
"Quark!" the glinn growled at him. "You have no idea how it pains me to take my leave of you."
"All good things," Quark muttered as waves of incredible pain radiated from his crushed right ear lobe and across his skull and neck.
Datar's swift, expert punch to the center of his stomach doubled Quark over, his lips gaping in vain for even a mouthful of air.
"Relax, Quark," the glinn hissed, reaching out for Quark's earlobe again. "It's not necessary for you to speak -- ever again!"
Quark felt himself hauled up until he stared right into Datar's narrowed eyes. He felt his poor earlobe throb painfully, already starting to swell.
"My men and I are going to make this a real farewell." The glinn nodded once and Quark felt huge hands forcibly secure his shoulders and arms from behind. Datar addressed his soldiers as if reading from a proclamation. "Quark of Terok Nor, you miserable mound of sluk scum: For the crime of rigging your dabo table, for the crime of watering your drinks, short-timing the holosuites, inflating tabs, and...most of all for the crime of being a Ferengi...I sentence you to death!"
Incredulous, Quark tried to plead his innocence, but his rasping exhortations were drowned out by the cheers of the surrounding soldiers. He tried to blurt out the combination of his floor vault, the shuttle access codes Rom and Nog were going to use to escape, even made-up names of resistance fighters, but the sharp cutting pressure of the ODN cable Glin Datar suddenly wrapped around his neck ended any chance he had of saying a word. Even the squeak that escaped him then registered as little more than a soon-to-be-dead man's choked-off wheeze.
Eyes bulging, each racing heartbeat thundering in his cavernous ear tunnels, Quark could only watch as two soldiers hooked the other end of the thick cable to the grappler on the cargo antigrav.
Datar slammed his hand on the antigrav's control and the meter-long device bucked up a few centimeters, steadied itself, then rose smoothly and slowly and inexorably, trailing cable until it passed the Promenade's second level.
The cable snapped taut against Quark's neck, yanking him at last from the grip of the soldiers who had held him. Kicking frantically, he felt a boot fly free. He grimaced in embarrassment as he realized his toes were sticking through the holes worn in his foot wrappings. Hadn't his moogie told him to always wear fresh underclothes?
Even Quark knew that was a foolish thought to have, especially at the moment in which he was drawing his last breath. His fingers scrabbled at the cable around his neck, but it was too tight and in too many layers for him to change the pressure.
Dimly through the pounding that now filled his head, Quark could hear the soldiers' laughter and hooting. Even as his vision darkened, he raged at himself for having failed to predict how quickly the end of the Occupation would come.
He had seen the signs, discussed it with his suppliers. Another month, he had concluded, perhaps two. Time enough to profit from the Cardassian soldiers being shipped out, eager to convert their Bajoran "souvenirs" to more easily transportable latinum. He had even already booked his passage on a freighter and --
-- Dark stars sparkled at the rapidly shrinking edge of Quark's vision, as he mourned the deposit he had paid to Captain Yates. Just then the roar of something large approaching -- something loud and silent all at the same time -- swallowed the jeers of the Cardassians, and Quark felt himself fall, flooded with shock that he was not ascending to the Divine Treasury but apparently on his way to the Debtors' Dungeon. How could that be possible? He had lived a life of greed and self-absorption. How could he not be rewarded with eternal dividends? He wanted to speak to someone in charge. He wanted to renegotiate the deal. He wanted his moogie!
And then the back of the deck of the Promenade smacked into the back of his bulbous head and scrawny neck.
Through starstruck vision, he saw the glow of a phaser emitter node by his chin, felt a searing flash of heat at his neck, and then the constriction of the ODN cable was gone.
"Breathe!" a harsh voice shouted from some distant place.
"Moogie?" Quark whispered. His mother was about the only person he could think of who might have any reason at all for saving him from the Cardassians.
Then Quark was roused from his lethargy by four nerve-sparking slaps across his face.
He wheezed with an enormous intake of breath, then choked as he saw who was saving him from the Cardassians.
This new Cardassian, gray-skinned and cobra-necked like all the others, was someone Quark had never seen before. He wore an ordinary soldier's uniform but had the bearing and diction of an officer, perhaps even of a gul. All this Quark observed in the split second it took for the new Cardassian to haul him to his feet. As a barkeep, Quark was a firm believer in the 194th Rule, and since he couldn't always know about every new customer before that customer walked through the door, to protect his profits he had been required to become expert at deducing a customer's likely needs and desires from but a moment's quick observation.
This Cardassian, for instance, would order vintage kanar, and would always know if the Saurian brandy was watered. An officer and a gentleman, Quark thought admiringly. Reflexively he considered the likelihood of the Cardassian also needing wise and seasoned -- and not inexpensive -- investment help.
But then the gray stranger locked his free arm around Quark's neck to violently spin him around as he fired his phaser at two other Cardassian soldiers across the Promenade at the entrance to the Temple.
Quark flopped like a child's doll in the stranger's grip. He goggled in surprise as he saw the body of Glinn Datar sprawled on the deck nearby, smoke still curling up from the back of his head and adding to the blue haze that filled the Promenade. Cardassians fighting Cardassians? It made no sense. Especially when it seemed they were fighting over him.
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